Eric Rosen is a nationally recognized playwright, director and producer and the fourth artistic director in the 49-year history of Kansas City Repertory Theatre. He is also co-founder and former artistic director of Chicago’s acclaimed About Face Theatre, where he developed nearly 30 world premieres in his thirteen seasons there. His KC Rep credits include the world premiere of Venice, a new musical he co-wrote with Matt Sax (co-production with Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, Fall of 2010). Venice was named Best Musical of the Year in TIME magazine, and made its New York premiere in 2012.
His KC Rep credits include direction of Metamorphoses (also Australia and regional tour) and The Trip to Bountiful prior to his appointment, and direction of Clay (prior to its New York premiere at Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3, winner of Chicago’s Jefferson Award and nominee for the Drama Desk Award in New York); Winesburg, Ohio (for which he also wrote book and lyrics, winner of the Jeff Award for Best New Work and Philadelphia’s Barrymore Award for Best Musical); the world premiere of A Christmas Story, The Musical! (transfer to 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle); and the acclaimed hits Cabaret and August: Osage County.
Eric earned his Ph.D. in performance studies from Northwestern University, and held a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)/Theatre Communication Group (TCG) Career Development Fellowship for Directors. He has twice served as a theatre panelist for the NEA and has participated in the TCG/Pew Charitable Trusts’ National Theatre Artists Residency Program. Rosen has taught at Northwestern University, University of Chicago, Brooklyn College and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, his alma mater.
What makes Kansas City a great place for creativity and the arts?
While so many parts of the country are seeing their arts communities decline, KC is in a state of renaissance — we are small enough that we all know each other, but big enough that we can attract the nation's attention to theatre, music, dance, all kinds of performance and visual arts.
When and where are you happiest?
In the dark of the theatre, just as the lights are going out and a room full of people are huddled together to hear a story I created. It's an unimaginable happiness. But I also love being with my fiancé and my dog in the wilderness, in the beautiful countryside.
What is your favorite spot in Kansas City?
I love the West Side neighborhood, where I recently moved. It reminds me of my long time neighborhood in Chicago, with great restaurants and a five minute walk to the Crossroads, but it could also be in the middle of the countryside.
Where's your favorite place outside of Kansas City?
My family is all in New York, and my fiancé and I split our time between there and here (he's about to star in a new Broadway musical, so I'm pretty excited about that). So we spend a lot of time in New York, and we also travel whenever we can. I've fallen in serious love with the Italian countryside.
What's your most treasured personal possession?
I am originally from North Carolina, so I'm a die-hard Tar Heels basketball fan. I have an unopened commemorative Coke bottle celebrating the 1982 NCAA victory over Georgetown that I've had since I was 11.
Who's your favorite fictional hero?
This will dodge the question, but I'm obsessed right now with my own fictional creation, Venice Monroe, the hero of the musical VENICE that I wrote with Matt Sax. We're taking the show to New York soon, and I'm thinking all the time about what makes him a hero — a leader who sparks a revolution and has to overcome his own fractured history to become truly great.
Who do you most admire in real-life?
I'm sort of a literary geek, so fiction writers and poets are my heroes. The capacity to dream up and populate a world, alone in some room somewhere, is to me the highest art form. And my favorite writer is Walt Whitman, who managed to tell the truth about himself and create a kind of American poetry that could heal a fractured nation — that's pretty amazing.